Asked by JamesBiology 🌱

What are structure and function of alveoli?

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Claire Jeffrey

Really passionate about sharing my Human Biology knowledge!

Alveoli are tiny sacs found in the lungs of mammals to help with rapid gas exchange (breathing). Alveoli actually comes from the Latin for little cavity, and this is what they look like in the lungs, tiny holes that are vital to breathing (you can also find a different type of alveoli in teeth). The membrane of the sac itself is a gas exchange surface through diffusion, where the carbon dioxide rich blood from the body is exhaled whilst oxygen is absorbed to be pumped around the body. The average human has 700 million alveoli and (to me at least) they look a bit like broccoli, with the alveoli duct being the stem, and the floret being the alveoli sacs. There are many sacs on each duct, increasing the surface area for gas exchange. The surface area of alveoli actually makes up almost 70 square metres (1 quarter of a tennis court). The alveoli are made from elastin and collagen fibres, to allow for expansion during inhalation. They have an extracellular matrix surrounded by a capillary network to promote diffusion of carbon dioxide and oxygen. Some medical conditions such as asthma are related to the amount of air that can be brought into the alveoli, where external pollutants (generally) restrict the inhalation causing respiratory distress. If you have more questions or require more detail just let me know

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